Kathy Griffin should be writing a nice thank you card to fellow comedian Bill Maher for shifting outrage away from her Trump-head controversy and bringing it on himself by appearing on national television and casually dropping the most reviled racial epithet in America.
During Friday’s edition of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on Friday, Maher was interviewing Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska.
“I’ve got to get to Nebraska more,” said Maher at one point.
“You’re welcome,” replied Sasse. “We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.”
Quipped Maher: “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n****r. No, it’s a joke.”
While some members of the audience could be heard to audibly groan, Maher and Sasse moved on to other topics and it was not mentioned again during the remainder of the show; in fact, the New York Times reports that Maher’s remarks weren’t bleeped when the episode was rebroadcast later in the evening.
And while Maher didn’t address what he said, that was not the case on social media — where everybody seemingly had something to say about it.
That included DeRay Mckesson, described by the Times as “a prominent activist for the Black Lives Matter movement,” who wrote on Twitter: “But really, @BillMaher has got to go. There are no explanations that make this acceptable.”
Mckesson includes a video of Maher using the N-word, below, but be warned that Maher’s comments were aired without being bleeped.
Maher finally responded to the furor, offering a statement to the New York Times‘ Dave Itzkoff. “The word was offensive and I regret saying it,” said Maher, “and am very sorry.”
Will Maher’s brief apology be enough to quell the backlash? That remains to be seen, but he was roundly criticized throughout the Twittersphere in comments such as these:
Following the furor, HBO has released a statement decrying Maher’s comment as “completely inexcusable” and promising that offending word will be edited out of all future rebroadcasts.
“Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless,” the HBO statement said. “We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”
On Monday, a rep for Senator Al Franken — scheduled to appear on this week’s show — announced the Minnesota politician and former “SNL” writer/performer is backing out of the appearance.
“Senator Franken believes that what Bill Maher said was inappropriate and offensive, which is why he made the decision not to appear on the next episode of ‘Real Time,’” the spokesperson said in a statement to HuffPost. “He was glad to see Bill, who the Senator considers to be a good friend, apologize and express sincere regret for his comment.”
Other guests set to appear on Friday’s edition of “Real Time” include rapper/actor Ice Cube, former congressman David Jolly, journalist David Gregory and activist Symone Sanders. Of the four, only Sanders has confirmed that she will be sticking to her scheduled appearance.
“I am still planning on doing the show Friday,” she told HuffPost via email. “I thought Maher’s comment, Ben Sasse’s reaction and the crowd’s applause were all equally distasteful, inappropriate and offensive. I am glad Maher too recognized as such and issued an apology.”
She added: “I look forward to a dialogue about it and other pressing issues of the week on Friday. The n-word is not a joke to be thrown about and it is never OK to make light of slavery and/or the experiences of enslaved people.”